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Web Date: January 30, 2018

Indian government official with chemistry degree claims Darwin theory ‘scientifically wrong’

Satyapal Singh rebuked but retains education post
By K.V. Venkatasubramanian, special to C&EN
Department: Government & Policy
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Satyapal Singh was elected to India's parliament in 2014 after a three-decade police career.
Credit: Hindustan Times/Newscom
Photo of Satyapal Singh.
 
Satyapal Singh was elected to India's parliament in 2014 after a three-decade police career.
Credit: Hindustan Times/Newscom

An education minister in India who claims to hold a doctorate in chemistry has asserted that Charles Darwin’s theory of human evolution is “scientifically wrong” and should be eliminated from school and college textbooks. Although his remarks generated much criticism from India’s scientific community, he retains his government post.

The minister, Satyapal Singh, said on Jan. 20 that “Since man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they saw an ape turning into a man.” He also claimed to have a Ph.D. in chemistry from Delhi University.

Official records show that Singh holds an M.Phil. in chemistry and a Ph.D. in public administration from Nagpur University. He spent three decades in police work and rose to police commissioner of Mumbai before he retired. He was elected to India’s parliament in 2014 and appointed in 2017 to serve as minister of state for higher education within the government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.

“There is no scientific basis for the minister’s statements,” the Indian Academy of Sciences, Indian National Science Academy, and the National Academy of Sciences, India say in a joint statement. “Evolutionary theory, to which Darwin made seminal contributions, is well established.”

A public letter signed by more than 3,000 scientists and others says, “When a minister working for Human Resource Development in the country makes such claims, it harms the scientific community’s efforts to propagate scientific thoughts and rationality through critical education and modern scientific research. It also diminishes the image of the country at the global level and reduces faith of the international historical research community in the genuine research by the Indian researchers.”

The public letter asked Singh to retract his statement. Singh instead said on Jan. 22 that his ministry would host an international conference at which “scientists can come out and say where they stand on the issue.”

Singh’s superior, Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar, rebuked him at a press conference on Jan. 24. Javadekar advised Singh to refrain from making “such comments” and added, “We should not dilute science.” Javadekar said there were no plans to hold a conference to disprove Darwin. Science & Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan refused to comment.

India’s Breakthrough Science Society, which led the India March for Science in 2017, is now organizing a “Darwin’s Week” event that will start on Feb. 12, Darwin’s birthday. “During this week, seminars will be organized in all major cities commemorating Darwin’s work, and there will be popular talks on the subject in schools, colleges and localities,” says Soumitro Banerjee, general secretary of the society.


Correction: This story was updated on Jan. 30 to correct the dates on which Singh spoke. He made his comments in January, not December.

 
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Comments
Mahesh Joshi (Wed Jan 31 02:58:09 EST 2018)
Thanks C&en for carrying this important issue. Mr. Satyapal Singh made this statement in Aurangabad city of Maharashtra state in India and I am one of the person who witnessed it.
Al Hanko (Wed Jan 31 05:13:13 EST 2018)
True science is reproducible, we can't do that with Darwin's theory. And that is why it remains a theory, and not science. And as a theory it should be allowed to be challenged and questioned. But so many have chosen to settle on this flimsy branch and call it science.
Sir Isaac Newton would stand with this man against the claims of Darwin.
Gary Hancock (Wed Jan 31 17:47:03 EST 2018)
In science you challenge a theory with evidence not assertions bordering on religious blindness. Its fine to dispute evolution but find the evidence to support the disputation and do not use a position of power and influence to assert a belief.
Alex (Thu Feb 08 21:31:59 EST 2018)
Gary Hancock
Evolutionary Theory has been THOROUGHLY refuted scientific, factually, logically, philosophically.
The fact that people like you make such ignorant statements is all the PROOF that is needed to show how blindly you and those who agree with you religiously adhere your o government mandated/sponsored "science".
Ceaser tried to force people to bow down to his religion, today it is no different.

Go find comfort with your masses, they are the only ones on your side. But you stand starkly against Science, fact, reason, logic, and truth.
Jay H. Jones (Wed Jan 31 20:31:45 EST 2018)
You misunderstand the definition of theory used in this context. It applies to the process not the instance. It is not an untested or poorly tested hypothesis but rather a set of processes, which have been shown to be valid with repeated testing. (similar to electronic theory) The evidence for biological evolution is overwhelming. This is a common misconception. I would be delighted to communicate with you further to help resolve this misinterpretation.
John T (Thu Feb 08 11:08:27 EST 2018)
There may be much research attempting to prove evolution is the mechanism by which life appeared and progressed. The very foundations on which biological evolution stand, however, rest on sand which is quickly washing away. No evidence exists to show how life spontaneously arose and as more is learned, the immense complexity of life, even in its simplest forms, demonstrates insurmountable obstacles to the beginnings of life without the work of a master engineer. As an engineer, I understand that even the simplest of designs will never function without much thought and planning. How could it possibly be that life, so immensely complex that it is not completely understood by our most learned scholars, could have used random mutations to go from molecules to the variety we see. To believe this is foolishness! If all the world’s resources would put into creating life right now from molecules, it could not be done! Now add in the ideas of consciousness, intellect and love... it is a wonderful creation we live in!
Sekuini (Thu Feb 08 14:23:23 EST 2018)
well said. GOD is the Master Engineer.
Richard Johns (Wed Jan 31 08:31:51 EST 2018)
Let Darwin speak himself from Chapter 6 of Origin, Difficulties of the Theory: "Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms? Why is not all nature in confusion instead of the species being as we see them, well defined?" This question has never been answered. Also, in his book, Genetic Entropy, Dr Sanford, plant geneticist demonstrates that not only are we not evolving, we are devolving as genetic damage increases with each generation. In addition there are over 3000 scientists, engineers, PHD's in biology, biochemistry, microbiology etc., many from major universities around the world, that have signed the Dissent From Darwinism List.(google it), So Singh's doubts are well founded.
Daniel Shoemaker (Wed Jan 31 15:48:11 EST 2018)
Richard Johns, Darwin answers that question himself, at length, in Chapter 6. At the genetic level we do see "innumerable transitional forms." Consider the influenza virus.
Richard Johns (Wed Jan 31 18:06:09 EST 2018)
Nevertheless, the influenza virus remains a virus. Darwin's enigma stands.
Gary Hancock (Wed Jan 31 17:50:21 EST 2018)
Silly comment - evolution does not talk about evolving into a superior creature. In fact it is totally accepting of devolution where an inferior species intellectually is better adapted for survival. Evolution makes no distinction of the type you are stating and therefore the subsequent quotes are either misread or simply misunderstandings of the theory - again, if you have actual evidence to counter it by all means submit for peer review but ensure you understand the problem you wish to discredit. Like many others you still anthropomorphise and place humans at the centre, teh basic source of your unhappiness with the field data to date.
Richard Johns (Thu Feb 01 17:42:11 EST 2018)
Yes, I put human beings at the center. Out of all the species of the earth, humans are the only one studying where we came from.
Bill Howard (Wed Jan 31 15:33:20 EST 2018)
Good for him! I hope he knows Jesus Christ as his personal Savior!

Darwin's theory is well-established, but so is the Bible. The Bible claims that GOD created man in his present form approximately 6000 years ago. It is a cardinal belief by all Christians that the Bible is the perfectly inspired and perfectly preserved Word of GOD. If the Bible is not telling us the truth about creation, then that makes GOD a liar, and it is impossible for GOD to tell a lie. It is also impossible for any person who claims to be a Christian to believe Darwin's theory. If anyone says that he or she is a Christian and also claims to believe Darwin's theory of the origin of the human species, then that person is ignorant and either does not know what Darwin's theory is, or does not have the foggiest idea who GOD is.

I also have a PhD in chemistry. I went to Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley. I am a Bible-believing Christian who denies Darwin's Theory.

Gary D. Grantham, Ph.D. (Wed Jan 31 16:22:54 EST 2018)
"..or does not have the foggiest idea who GOD is." I don't know, and you don't either.
Bill Howard (Wed Jan 31 16:53:57 EST 2018)
Actually, I do! And the Bible teaches us that you can know Him too. In fact, anyone who follows the clear instructions given in the Bible can know GOD.

Anyone who thinks it is impossible to know GOD is a liar.



Raymond Stewart (Wed Jan 31 17:15:36 EST 2018)
I also have a Ph.D. degree in Chemistry. However, I take exception to the statement, "The Bible claims that GOD created man in his present form approximately 6000 years ago." I do not find this statement in the Holy Scriptures. I am a Christian and I uphold the Bible as God's inspired Word. However, one should be careful in reading into the sacred Word one's own biases. I believe that it is not incompatible thinking to believe in evolution and the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
Bill Howard (Wed Jan 31 17:41:24 EST 2018)
That is really interesting! How is it possible that you and I can read the same Bible, and yet I find that GOD created man 6000 years ago, and you don't.

I really don't see how that is possible.

I think that a lot of people are afraid to admit what the Bible actually says, and I think you are one of them.

Any child who knows how to add numbers can add the ages of the patriarchs and find that Adam lived approximately 6000 years ago. The Bible does not give us the exact amount of time since Adam, but it does give us a ballpark number.

Some people claim ignorance of the time since Adam on purpose. It's not that you cannot figure this out for yourself. You're just afraid.

Chris (Wed Jan 31 17:51:10 EST 2018)
Aren't you afraid to admit to the reality of carbon-dating, and evidence of humans long before then...
Richard Johns (Thu Feb 01 09:33:20 EST 2018)
Speaking of carbon dating, using accelerated mass spectrometry, they have found carbon 14 in diamonds. This throws the geologic timescale into chaos since diamonds are thought to be a billion years or more. Carbon-14 puts it into thousands of years, a reducing factor of a million or greater.
Clinton Denson (Wed Jan 31 16:47:16 EST 2018)
Sorry--- the Bible does not claim 6000 years ago for the creation of man.
Check out www.reasons.org for an alternative view by scientists who happen to be Christian scholars.
I also have a PhD in chemistry, believe the Bible and object to macro-evolution.
Thomas Colacot, PhD Chem, FRSC,  (Wed Jan 31 19:17:33 EST 2018)
I believe in God. I am a Christian too. Bible does not neither contradict nor support Science. Theory of Evaluation is not fully proven but it has come a long way ever since it was written. I would suggest you to read Francis Collins’ “The Language of Science and Faith”. Dr. Collins is the director of NIH who had completed the human genome project very successfully. He became a Christian after understanding the correlation between creation and evolution. How can we compare God’s one day to our one day? We can’t comprehend the awsome power of God. However Bible is not a history book or a Science book. This is what happened Harold Camping of Family radio who predicted the end time time by using Numerology. Hence we have to be very careful. Our personal relationship with God is more important than other things to be a believer.
Varghese (Thu Feb 01 13:31:22 EST 2018)
I have a Chemistry PhD and 30 yrs in industry, but this is not even a high school conversation. The Old Testament in the Bible is for a 3rd grade level of comprehension if not lower. The content was passed on through generations by word of mouth and embellished for effect no doubt. Applying modern day metrics is impossible, and taking it literally means that we are all descended from incesteous relationships does it not? The Bible does not have a chapter on physics dealing with isotopic half lives, not does it describe the dinosaurs or what became of them. Darwin made his observations before DNA was discovered, yet we now know that there is a lot of overlap with other animals. Enough said.
Richard Johns (Sun Feb 04 08:02:31 EST 2018)
Darwin's theory is well established? His theory has been challenged since the day he put it out, even while he was developing it. And now to add to the imbroglio, neo-Darwinism and the contradictory punctuated equilibrium! What a mess!
Abraham (Sat Jun 09 21:57:19 EDT 2018)
hmmm? it's true that evolution was challenged in the time that he was developing it, but that doesn't say anything about the truth of it. To put this in perspective, evolution was challenged and criticized for the same reason germ theory and almost every other theory in existence was challenged... because those weren't the only theories present at those times- doubts were still cast because of that. Since then, evolution has accumulated a formidable amount of evidence and scientific backing such that it is no longer contested that much on a scientific basis. As such, a study from Pew Research Center in 2009 revealed that 97% of scientists accept evolution. You could try to devalue this based on its age, but I think it would still fall into the 90-100% area today. Anyway, the major group of people who really challenge any of these established theories today are usually people citing religious reasons rather than scientific reasons. If your definition of well established requires everyone- including those who aren't scientists- to agree, then you'll be happy to know that the same research got information for the general population as well. However, by my definition, even with people outside of science disagreeing with it, the weight of evidence in favor it alone could make it well established.

The whole confusion surrounding neo-darwinism and punctuated equilibrium has puzzled me for over the last hour. Mainly because these words have been defined in so many ways. However, I haven't seen the contradictions you see between those two theories. I'm going to take an educated guess that you think that punctuated equilibrium contradicts neo-darwinism because it describes rapid changes rather than gradual change. However, it really only describes these rapid genetic changes in small populations where they will propagate more easily when compared to the rate in larger populations, which is some common sense. As soon as that population grows enough, they resume their slow propagation. this really only gives enough of an exception to explain fossil evidence. This is where the specific issue lies, if I guess correctly. It is used to explain why sudden changes can be found in organisms in the fossil record, but some misinterpretations make it seem that this is nearly instantaneous, when reality says that such changes still took multiple generations like neo-darwinism predicts.
Jerry Workman (Wed Jan 31 15:44:19 EST 2018)
There are many ways to define what is referred to as evolution. Only a basic form of natural selection has ever been demonstrated. These definitions are published by a group of scientists with the statement entitled, "Comment on Chemical, Special, and General Evolution".

Special evolution involves natural selection and speciation within limits of a given gene pool. Special evolution can be demonstrated by both field and laboratory research and should be regarded as factual.

General evolution suggests that all organisms—extant and extinct—arose from a simple, common ancestor and are the result of small, gradual genetic changes over time. General evolution is a hypothetical extrapolation from special evolution and should be regarded as a theoretical model, since it cannot be tested directly in the laboratory or field. We are not convinced that general evolution, including the extrapolation itself as well as its underlying assumptions, provides an adequate scientific explanation for the origin and diversity of all known forms of life.

Chemical evolution (similar to abiogenesis) is the self-organization of life from non-living elemental precursors. Chemical evolution has never been demonstrated, and its proposed mechanisms remain conjectural. Chemical evolution becomes a philosophical position when it assumes that the mere presence of natural mechanisms necessarily precludes intelligence.
Richard Johns (Sun Feb 04 12:58:13 EST 2018)
Evolution from a common ancestor has never been observed.....fact. Abiogenesis has never been observed.....fact. Chance has never been observed to assemble highly specified systems, like a cell, or the 4 chambered heart. The evolution tree seen in biology textbooks is true only at the nodes, where the well defined creatures are pictured. All the trunk and branches linking the nodes are graphic representations of peoples' imaginations.
Valery Tsimmerman (Wed Jan 31 15:58:26 EST 2018)
There is a BIG problem looming with regard to Darwinian evolutionary theory and it is not that genome gets inherited and is never changing, but quite the opposite, it is extremely dynamic. It is called "Somatic Mosaicism". Apparently in human, as well as non-human, brains almost every neuron has distinct DNA. Please, review this article: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-surprised-to-find-no-two-neurons-are-genetically-alike/
I am sure that proponents of Darwinian evolution will try to explain it away, but it is not going to be easy.
John Foley (Wed Jan 31 17:17:14 EST 2018)
“Since man is seen on Earth, he has always been a man. Nobody, including our ancestors, in written or oral, said they saw an ape turning into a man.”

I haven't seen God, so that blows that theory.
Stanton de Riel (Wed Jan 31 18:13:35 EST 2018)
Yes -- and, in a similar vein, I hold firmly that the CAS Registry was, in fact, created in 4004 B.C.E. (along with the rest of the world) but divinely revealed to the Chemical Abstracts Service in 1965. Mr. Singh is undoubtedly familiar with this (chemical) facet of the divine presence.
"Transitional forms" don't appear in the fossil record because they are numerically scarce. This is because evolution forces transitional forms to (relatively) rapidly optimize for the ecological niche they will fill as new species. Let's assume say a global population of 100 million dinosaurs, each living 30 years, over 100 million years. That's 300 trillion individual dinosaurs; then 3000 excellent skeletons represents 0.000001% of that population over time. Sampling 0.000001% of a population doesn't tell you much about the numerically scarce members of it -- even if you did happen on a "transitional form", you might regard it as a new species. At that same sampling rate, would you expect to detect a scarce "transitional form" by randomly sampling from currently 8 billion humans, (that's 8 individuals sampled, over the entire globe!)?
Aleksandr Surguy (Fri Feb 09 11:56:59 EST 2018)
And what evidence do you have to believe there were 300 trillion dinosaurs? Sounds like you make up numbers in your madeup world.
Muhammad Arshad PhD (Wed Jan 31 21:53:48 EST 2018)
I am a Chemist with PhD from UK and I have been working on the synthesis of anti-malarial drug Quinine. This drug has been used for curing malaria since 17th century but its exact structure was known to chemists no earlier than 19th century. Because science was not as established in 17th century so as to be helpful for predicting its structure. However, Developmental stages of a baby before embryonic stage to a full baby inside womb of a woman is well explained in Quran which was revealed more than 1400 years ago by God. There was no apparant acience exiating at that time, Which proves that Quran is word of God. Point here is that now sience has made tremendous achiements and is well eatablished. Question is, how long it would further take to provide any scientific proof of Darwins gossips???
Hans Ulrich Suter (Thu Feb 01 02:49:38 EST 2018)
No one enforces quantum mechanics (or the nice Quantum Chemistry for us) or Einsteins relativity theory by trying to fire critics of these theories. In contrast stands the Darwinian ideas. So the conclusion is simple, the first 2 are most probably correct, whilst the Darwinians ideas are suspected to be wrong. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.
S. N. Balasubrahmanyam (Thu Feb 01 05:33:14 EST 2018)
What I find amusing (actually distressing) is that the Indian minister seems to believe that his forefathers would have handed down the "information" if they "saw" an "ape" turning into a man before their eyes! The reaction of the Indian science societies is namby-pamby. We have already arrived at a state where we can understand the molecular mechanisms that work to "fit" the species into their "niches" (or vice versa) Dangerously, we are on the verge of being able to manipulate those mechanisms.
I also wish to add that the ancient Indian invention of the decimal place-value system, including a place for zero, allowed thinking in terms periods of millions years, the different ages even given proper names like "krta", "threythaa", "Dvaapara", "Kali" and also "manvantara" or Brahma's Day! Natural evolutions needs time and it does not lack time!
Thomas Pack (Thu Feb 01 15:10:43 EST 2018)
I am disappointed that ACS would appear to be in favor of having someone silenced and/or fired for disagreeing with a theory. Where's the open mindedness that we all cherish? I agree that Darwin's theory is withstanding the test of time, but so did Newton's theory of gravity.
K (Thu Feb 01 19:31:26 EST 2018)
Reading the majority of these comments I have to keep reminding myself that they represent only a very tiny fraction of the 158,000 members of the ACS and the greater number of scientists overall. Otherwise I would be depressed.
MABarb (Fri Feb 02 23:59:31 EST 2018)
I, for one, do not think evolution is true. Case in point, we would not still be having these discussions if it were! I used to think natural selection was true.....sadly, the liberals have proved this is not the case either!

I applaud the Indian Government official for standing up against this extremely archaic theory that seems only to survive because scientist can't publish anything these days that is original but have to rely on saying "evolution." It immediately gets published.
Richard Johns (Sat Feb 03 07:21:51 EST 2018)
Of course 500 years ago, the majority of scientists supported the geocentric Ptolemy model of the solar system. Science is not a majority contest.
Mark Shoalts (Sun Feb 11 19:35:36 EST 2018)
I am not a scientist, I am an engineer; I arrived at this page and this discussion completely by accident while looking for something unrelated. However, having read the interesting discussion, I felt compelled to throw my 2 cents' worth in. (Just as an aside, I have read Darwin's book). The theory of natural selection is completely different from and contradictory to the theory of evolution. Survival of the fittest means that you are selected for traits that you have. Evolution means that you develop new traits. You might like to have your cake and eat it too, but you can't suck & blow. Find one example, anywhere, of a species becoming more complex when it diverges from a preceding example. Natural selection sheds the unnecessary, it does not produce new characteristics; it only leaves them to dominate as it reduces the background noise. It is illogical to argue that thousands of species of birds developed because of evolution; how could one species diversify into all of them if only the fittest one survived back at day 1? At some point, evolutionists say that the first bird arose. If we started with one, and only the fittest offspring survived, how did that one offspring become the thousands of different ones that there are now? Forget generalities, be specific; one type cannot become two if only the fittest one survived. If evolution is true, it's going on today. Provide one example of a more complex organism arising from a less complex one. On the other hand, natural selection does go on today, and always has. One simply has to understand the difference between evolution and natural selection.
dak (Wed Feb 14 18:05:53 EST 2018)
Define complexity. Is it number of genes or parts in a given cell. If number of genes, than many mammals are less complex then plants. Another example is that some plants have multiple chromosome duplications made on purpose by man others made by Nature.

Do you accept that humans created the many breeds of dogs from a common 1-3 ancestors (exact number of ancestors is still in flux)? This is an example counter to birds where humans did the essentially all the selection rather than random acts of Nature.
James (Mon Feb 12 14:31:18 EST 2018)
Well said sir!!
BAM (Wed Feb 14 14:46:42 EST 2018)
After reading a number of comments from self-purported PHD's in Chemistry, I came to the conclusion that a number of individuals need to seek additional education in some other areas of science. There are over a dozen different disciplines in science today that fully support evolution and natural selection in many, many different ways. True that every change in every species has been proven, but many many instances have been. Anthropoligical study and DNA analysis of mummified remains on ancient humans clearly factually demonstrates change in human form and DNA. DNA analysis has also shown that some species that are outwardly similar in form have very different DNA, and have adapted to their environment. Fossil records demonstrate vast changes in flora and fauna through time. Petrology and stratigraphy show vast spans of elapsed time in various epochs of earth's geological history and changes in plant and animal life too.
Avinash Rangra (Wed Feb 14 19:37:12 EST 2018)
Theory of Evolution is still a work in progress. We have quite a few souls in our country who believe that earth is flat. All power to them. This fella, let’s say have ‘alternate’ opinions.
Bill (Thu Feb 15 18:23:19 EST 2018)
Mr. Singh stirred up quite a hornets nest. The problem is simple: he doesn't have enough faith (in science).
" ‘I have faith and belief myself. I believe that the universe is comprehensible within the bounds of natural law and that the human brain can discover those natural laws and comprehend the universe. I believe that nothing beyond those natural laws is needed.’
‘I have no evidence for this. It is simply what I have faith in and what I believe.’
Isaac Asimov, Counting the Eons, Grafton Books (Collins), London, p.10."
Robert Kobrin (Thu Feb 15 18:23:33 EST 2018)
Mark Shoales:
Natural selection favors organisms that better fit the CURRENT environment. Mutations occur randomly, but not rarely. Most are not advantageous. But perhaps in a warm period of Climate has drastically changed many times over the eons. Perhaps early hominids needed the body hair of their precursors, but as climate warmed, bare skin had an advantage. Then cooling might have made them need fur again. Perhaps they then discovered how to steal fur from other animals, then how to stitch pelts together. So instead of dying off and becoming interesting fossils, they passed the knowledge to future generations, thus allowing us to evolve couturiers.

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